Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon set to be a ‘classic’

Martin Scorsese's latest film <I>Killers of the Flower Moon</I> is getting rave reviews.

Martin Scorsese's latest film Killers of the Flower Moon is getting rave reviews. Photo: Getty

Martin Scorsese’s latest film is already receiving high praise, but beyond the movie’s star-studded cast and hype is a disturbing true story.

Killers of the Flower Moon won’t hit cinemas until October, but it is already generating a lot of buzz.

The Western crime drama has been met with universal acclaim and received a nine-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival.

Directed by Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone and Jesse Plemons, the film is set in Oklahoma in the 1920s and is based on a devastating true story.

“[It] depicts the serial murder of members of the oil-wealthy Osage Nation, a string of brutal crimes that came to be known as the Reign of Terror,” Apple Studios said.

The film will be released on Apple+ after being released in theatres, in partnership with Paramount Pictures, in October.

'Killers of the Flower Moon' official teaser trailer

Source: YouTube/AppleTV

‘Instant American classic’

American journalist David Grann released his book, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI in 2017, to critical acclaim.

Scorsese directed the adaptation, co-produced it and co-wrote the script with Eric Roth.

The reviews since its premiere in Cannes have been overwhelmingly positive. The Guardian said the film was an “instant American classic” and Rolling Stone said it was “Martin Scorsese’s Great American Tragedy”.

DiCaprio plays Ernest Burkhart, and the film follows his “improbable romance” with Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone), a woman of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. De Niro plays William Hale, Burkhart’s rich and influential uncle.

Killers of the Flower Moon is an epic western crime saga, where real love crosses paths with unspeakable betrayal,” Apple said.

Speaking to Variety, Gladstone said Scorsese worked with the Osage Nation on the film and in the end, it turned out different to what he had originally envisioned.

That was very refreshing how involved the production got with the [Osage Nation] community,” Gladstone said.

“As the community warmed up to our presence, the more the community got involved with the film. It’s a different movie than the one [Scorsese] walked in to make, almost entirely because of what the community had to say about how it was being made and what was being portrayed.”

JaNae Collins, Lily Gladstone, Cara Jade Myers and Jillian Dion in "Killers of the Flower Moon,"

Martin Scorsese worked with the Osage Tribe to tell the story. Photo: Apple+

The Osage murders

Warning, spoilers ahead.

In the 1920s, many Americans were benefiting from the oil boom. At the height of the boom, the Osage Nation was earning some $30 million in revenue, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The oil boom was in full swing, and the Osage people were prosperous due to ownership of mineral rights,” a spokesperson for the Osage Nation said.

“Under the Osage Allotment Act of 1906, subsurface minerals within the Osage Nation Reservation were held in trust by the US government, but were tribally owned.”

Overnight, some people from the Osage Nation became some of the richest people in America. The mineral lease royalties were shared equally among the Osage people and each share was known as a ‘headright’.

A headright was hereditary, passing to the immediate legal heir of the deceased allottee. Non-Osages were able to inherit an Osage headright, and this was the motive for the Reign of Terror,” an Osage Nation spokesperson said.

From 1920 to 1925, there were “mysterious or unsolved” murders in Osage County.

Estimates vary, but approximately 24 Osage Indians died violent or suspicious deaths during the early 1920s,” the Oklahoma Historical Society reports.

However, the Osage Nation spokesperson said there were more than 60 “mysterious or unsolved murders” between 1920 and 1925.

What connected the victims was the headrights. One of the victims was Anna Brown. In 1921, her decomposing body was found in a remote ravine.

Two months after her body was found, her mother, Lizzie Q, “suspiciously” died and then her cousin Henry Roan was shot to death two years later. In March 1923, Anna’s sister and brother-in-law were killed when their home was bombed, according to the FBI.

William Hale, portrayed by De Niro, had a strong connection to Anna. His nephew, Ernest Burkhart, was married to her sister.

If Anna, her mother and two sisters died, in that order, all of the head rights would pass to the nephew, and Hale could take control. The prize? Half a million dollars a year or more,” the FBI said. 

Four agents went undercover and were able to tie Hale to the murders. He was convicted, along with his lawyer and hired killer.

But according to the Osage Nation spokesperson, Hale only served 18 years of his sentence and was released in 1947.

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